General News of Tuesday, 17 November 2020
Former President Jerry John Rawlings is obviously a figure that divides opinions. It has often been said that Rawlings is an enigma. While some believe that he was a liberator who saved Ghana from the claws of corruption, others believe that he was a dictator who had little respect for the rights of people and made economic decisions that eventually landed the nation into HIPC in 2002
It is therefore not surprising that upon his death – as in his lifetime – there are contrasting views about his public record.
There are those who celebrate him for being their ‘Junior Jesus’ and there are those who have condemned him for some pains he caused their parents and or relatives during his tenure as head of state.
GhanaWeb today, brings you five things that Rawlings did not like or to an extent hated.
It is the same topic that Rawlings rode on to stage the 15 May 1979 coup. The AFRC “let the blood flow” because of corruption. It is also the same issue that made Rawlings controversially oust the Limann government on 31 December 1981.
But in 1999, close to his exit as head of state, he told the visiting Queen Elizabeth to ask the British government to help him fight corruption in his administration and public life generally.
Truth, Probity, Accountability and Integrity were his buzzwords. Often, his critics are left in doubt what he means since those principles cut both ways.
This detestation for corruption is what culminated in the killing of former heads of state in 1979.
Rawlings said only recently that he did not understand why his critics say he does not speak against corruption in Akufo-Addo’s administration. But corruption is the reason Rawlings clashed repeatedly with the Kufuor, Atta-Mills, and Mahama administrations.
“I will praise the NDC when necessary and also criticize them when they go wrong. This does not mean I hate the party. I just hate corruption”, he said in 2017.
Rawlings did not like state institutions being named after him
The popular Rawlings Park at the Makola market in Accra was popularly named after Rawlings because during the military days soldiers used to flog market women there. These were women traders accused of “kalabule”, a corruption of the term “clever bullying” when they refused to sell their goods at the government’s “control price”, and instead cleverly created a shortage of commodities only to sell at a higher price. Today, at Makola, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly still has the signboard “Selwyn Market Roundabout” on display as the official reference to Rawlings Park.
Again the Rawlings Circle in Madina, Accra was named by the people. Originally there was no circle there at all – it was just a junction. Later under Kufuor, a roundabout was created in the middle of the road to depict a circle.
In the Kufuor era, there was talk about naming the University for Development Studies (UDS) after Rawlings, but this generated controversy, and the idea has still not materialised.
Last year, the Akufo-Addo administration wanted to name the University of Development Studies after him but Rawlings’s office wrote a letter declining that offer.
“The former President has since the publication of the details of the new bill to be tabled to Parliament written to the Minister of Education to reiterate his position and kindly requested that the re-naming of UDS after him be withdrawn from the Draft Bill to be submitted to Parliament”, parts of the statement read.
Rawlings won a USD50K prize in Japan for a sustainable end to hunger, a feat he chalked after the drought and famine in Ghana beginning in 1983.
He donated this money as seed capital for the establishment of UDS which was initiated by Dr. Hilla Limann, who Rawlings overthrew, thereby thwarting the founding of the university. UDS was started in Nyankpala near Tamale. It now has branches in Navrongo and Wa. Hitherto there was no university in the three Northern Regions.
The highway from Kwame Nkrumah interchange to Achimota built during the Kufuor administration is labelled JJ Rawlings avenue. However, when you try to locate the said JJ Rawlings avenue on GPS, the name that appears is Nsawam Road. In any case, everybody knows that road by the name Nsawam Road; there is even the Nsawam Road Church of Christ near the Vodafone head office as a confirmation.
Did not like reading from prepared speeches
Rawlings was not particularly fond of reading from already written speeches.
He is a man who had a knack for speaking to the times and speaking the language of the common person.
Give Rawlings a speech and he will start reading. After reading the opening paragraph or two, he will veer off and utter unguarded statements. On 4 June, 2001, when AKufo-Addo the then attorney-general brought a certificate of emergency to parliament which outlawed the June 4 public holiday, Rawlings held a downsized event at the Arts Centre, Accra during which he stated that the men and women of the Ghana Armed Forces were giving President Kufuor “fun fool respect” and that if Kufuor did not sit up, he would hear “boom” alluding to a coup d’etat. For such utterances, he earned the nickname “Dr Boom”.
Rarely did he miss the plot or focus of a message but he always added something to his speeches that made people enjoy listening to him.
Rawlings reportedly read literature in Achimota School, and he brought a lot of oratory skills and imagery to his speeches. Many Ghanaians can never forget the story Rawlings told about “Atta mortuary man” which was uncannily linked to President Atta-Mills, who was a sitting head of state.
Later some media men visited 37 Military Hospital and discovered that Atta mortuary man was a true story of a mortuary man who was running away because a supposed dead body from the coup years was coming out of the mortuary.
Swearing of oaths on the Bible
Rawlings was Catholic but never shied away from the basic things that made him distinctively African.
He confessed to clashing with a Catholic priest over the naming of his children.
He preferred the invocation of the deities in taking oaths courts than using the Bible.
He argued that Ghanaians feared the gods more than the Bible.
According to him, the deities meted out instant justice to persons who break their oath and the fear of that served as a deterrent to those who have the attitude of squandering state resources.
His viewpoint was that the Almighty God of the Abrahamic religions forgives easily which is why public officials do not take their oath seriously even after holding the Bible or Qu’ran to make an oath.
Rawlings, however, took his too presidential oaths while holding the Bible.
Detested politics of insult
Rawlings always ‘boomed’ his way through but rarely did he go personal on issues.
The politics of insult and vile allegations are things that he never enjoyed and always spoke against it.
In 2018, Rawlings lamented the attacks on him, his wife and Martin Amidu by some members of his own NDC party.
“I was telling a story about some of the little ones in the NDC, they are so vicious with their mouths… The kind of evil things they do and turn round and insult people like Martin Amidu, like my wife, like myself, and I wonder: is that my wife they are talking about? I wonder if that is Martin Amidu, I wonder if it’s me, from our own. But you say I don’t criticise Nana Addo for the things he does; to be quite honest, I’m at a loss as to what to believe because I know some of the things our people say about my wife, about Martin Amidu and myself are false.”
“I have so much on my chest, and you misrepresent me, you bastardise the truth, and people wonder: ‘Is this man crazy?’ and I have to apologise. It’s not over, I’ve just given you an example of what your generation is capable of doing. What a misrepresentation, isn’t it sad?”
That was not the first and certain not the last time Rawlings spoke about insults and attacks in the public space.
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